Eminentoes

The Unbearable Whiteness of Being Maureen Dowd

Columnist brings attention to white-run Times, media's racial double-standard.

By 7.21.09

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Let's dish.

And a delicious dish it is. A stew of race, the New York Times, media hypocrisy and double-standards. All inadvertently stirred by the lovely and talented Times columnist, the white female Maureen Dowd.

You know all those fevered editorials they churn out over there at the New York Times editorial board? Like, for instance, the hot fury published on June 30 wonderfully titled "Firefighters and Race."

In this jewel the Times editorial board makes its displeasure plain in the very first sentence, huffing that the Supreme Court decision in favor of the New Haven firemen has "dealt a blow to diversity in the American workplace." This was followed by a July 14th column by Times columnist Dowd titled "White Man's Last Stand," to which we will return shortly.

But first, let's get the meat into the stew. You can just smell that sizzling hypocrisy, can't you?

It seems the "American workplace" (to use the Times description) that is the New Haven fire department has a higher percentage of minorities than the American workplace that is…yes indeed… the New York Times editorial board its very self. To be quite specific:

• The New Haven fire department, according to press accounts, is 43% black and Latino. Or, if you prefer the term of art, 43% of the fire department is "minority."

• The New York Times editorial board, according to the information provided by The New York Times, is -- wait for it -- 12% black and Latino. Or, again, 12 % "minority" if you prefer the term.

• The New York Times Op-Ed page team of columnists, an elite group of which Ms. Dowd is a star, is 19% black and, again according to the Times listing of its Op-Ed page columnists, 0% Latino.

That's right. At the core of the beating intellectual heart of the left-wing establishment where such things are studied with the detail of Talmudic scholars, the New Haven fire department is doing more than three times better on race than the very liberal elites who have set themselves up as its sniffy critics. Perhaps instead of seething about "Firefighters and Race" the Times would have been better served by pondering "Editorial Writers and Race." Or perhaps: "Too Black to Write; New York Times Column Writing and Race."

According to the New York Times, its editorial board has 17 members. Of those 17, fifteen -- say again, 15 of the 17 -- are whiter than white on rice. This includes the very white Andrew Rosenthal who runs it, carrying the title of "Editorial Page Editor." 

That's roughly an 88% white hiring record for Rosenthal. Frank Ricci and his fellow white New Haven firemen would have had a better shot writing editorials for the Times than fighting fires for the dwindling number of Times readers in New Haven. After all, the percentage of whites at the New Haven fire department is just 57%.

But don't worry -- tokenism is alive and well at the Times. "White Rosie," as we'll call Mr. Rosenthal here with deference to a Dowd-like racial sensibility, has managed to make room for one Mexican and the inevitable token black to fill the other two seats in the Times version of "diversity in the American workplace." Amazingly enough, that one black on the Times editorial board matches exactly the number of blacks in the ranks of New Haven's 21 fire captains. One. There might still be a Latino captain in New Haven to match up with the Times' Mexican -- but only thanks to the Supreme Court and the hard-studying candidate himself, Lieutenant Ben Vargas. The Times rooted to keep Vargas out.

The Times' double-standard on race in its own workplace came to light as the result of Dowd's column attacking Supreme Court nominee Judge Sotomayor's critics on the Senate Judiciary Committee. The "wise Latina's" senatorial inquisitors, fumed Ms. Dowd in "White Man's Last Stand," were nothing more than "white Republican men afraid of extinction" who traffic in "codes, handshakes and clubs." Said Dowd: "President Obama wants Sotomayor, naturally, to bring a fresh perspective to the court. It was a disgrace that W. appointed two white men to a court stocked with white men. And Sotomayor made it clear that she provides some spicy seasoning to a bench when she said in a speech: ‘I simply do not know exactly what the difference will be in my judging, but I accept there will be some based on gender and my Latina heritage.'"

OK then. Point taken. The Dowd standard -- and that of the Times -- is to judge people by race. Got it. Will do.

So how does the Times stable of Op-Ed columnists stack up against the standards "White Mo" Dowd sets for the rest of us? You know, one's race being critical in order "to bring a fresh perspective" and avoid the "disgrace" of being "stocked with white men."

Of the eleven columnists the Times advertises as its team of Op-Ed page writers, nine are whites. Of those nine, seven are -- ouch! -- the disgracefully whitest of white men! Which is another way of saying 81% of the Times Op-Ed columnists are white (White Mo included) and 77% of the columnist team is, to use White Mo's phrase about the Supreme Court, "stocked with white men" -- guys like Frankly White Rich who are as white as sheets. If one is obsessed with viewing everyone and everything in America through the prism of race, then the 88% white New York Times editorial board and the white paper's stable of 81% white columnists clearly don't read their own editorials. No wonder Black Bob Herbert is so cranky all the time. One of the two black tokens on the Op-Ed page, Black Bob is forced to work with more white guys than David Duke. Black Bob would actually see more black faces if his white bosses let him take the company limo and its black driver over to New Haven to catch the next five-alarm. As for a wise Latina or Latino on the page? Nada.

That Times Editorial Board 15-2 ratio, however, is precisely the kind of thing that supposedly drives White Mo crazy. Or at least when it involves the Supreme Court or New Haven firemen and not her own turf. She somehow must hope the rest of us have forgotten that neither White Mo nor the whiteys writing those Times editorials with White Rosie wanted the only black man now sitting on the US Supreme Court to be there at all. Justice Clarence Thomas's very nomination, the Times foamed at the time in language worthy of The Birth of a Nation, was designed to "incite." Got that? You don't wanna put any black man on the Court who upsets the white massa's of the Times by going the uppity route.

So too did White Mo's white editorialist sheet mates burn an editorial cross or two to denigrate Miguel Estrada, the Bush choice for the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia. Fearing the Harvard-educated legal star and Latino Mr. Estrada would get to the point that Sonia Sotomayor is at today -- the Times demanded that it was both "compelling" and "necessary" to defeat a Hispanic man. Their unsurprising sentiments were the same as those of their white male Democratic allies on the Senate Judiciary Committee. In an internal Senate Democratic memo, Mr. Estrada was described as "dangerous" because he was "Latino." Interestingly, this foreshadowed the thinking designed to keep Lieutenant Ben Vargas out of a New Haven fire captaincy in spite of his having passed the required test. Come to think of it, since the Times was successful in its compelling need to keep Mr. Estrada off the bench, maybe they could have a disparate impact on their Op Ed page by making him their resident Latino columnist? 

Judging the entire world through the eyes of race must be something of a juggling routine if you work for the white boys of the Times. In 1900 the paper's white editorial board under the leadership of owner Adolph Ochs (or "Adolph the White" as we'll Dowdize the family ancestor of today's white owners) was ranting about "the menace of the rule of blacks." In 1991, the descendants of Adolph the White believed putting a black man on the Supreme Court to rule was inciting, if not menacing as Adolph warned. Inciting to what was left to the imagination. Still, at least give Adolph's heirs credit for staying loyal to principle. White Mo must arrive at work with a flask of Irish whiskey just to get her liberal white guilt complex through the white day. 

Then again, maybe not. Irish whiskey might remind of the embarrassing biographical nugget that she herself is said to be the white love child of a white male Irish cop and a white woman, both of modest means. (As a minor Washington celebrity, White Mo makes the prints on occasion for reasons much other than her column, various parts of her white life whitefully displayed.) This is a problem at the race and class conscious Times, threatening to cast White Mo in a harsh light that is unfashionably Palinesque. Which may explain why the youthful Dowd of the 1960s is said to have denied the fact, believing identifying White Dad as a White Pol was somehow more upscale than admitting to the fact he was a White Cop. Doubtless it is uncomfortably related to the reason White Mo and her pals are so upset by Sister Sarah. White Mo looks at Sarah and sees -- young White Mo! Eeeeeek! White Trash alert at the Times! Ohhhhhhh noooooooooooooo!

The fact that White Mo still works at the Times does come as a bit of a surprise in the wake of her "White Man's Last Stand" column. Calling attention to the white sheets who actually run the paper is surely not appreciated. It is a rare thing to see a white girl who has spent a professional and personal life courting white males bite the proverbial white male hand that enables said white girl to live in the white enclaves of an overwhelmingly black city -- and not only survive but thrive!

Her frustration is perhaps understandable. If you and the paper you write for pretend to a racially advanced view of the world, yet the paper is still owned by a white guy descendant of Adolph the White while the editorial board and columnist section has a "mostly whites only" sign hanging on the workplace door, your brain might short circuit too. Somewhere in her soul, you just know White Mo longs to be Linda Chavez.

It is remarkable when you think of it. To get Dowdy about it, White Mo's social life has occasionally made the New York Post's Page Six gossip column over the years. Why? Because she was linked to -- yes - white guys. These stories never tie her to, say, the rakish and black Marion Barry. No Black Diddy for White Mo. It was white Barbara Walters who did the deed with the first black Senator of the 20th century -- a Republican to boot. White Mo just always popped into the gossip columns displaying this thing for white guys. There was the white actor Michael Douglas episode. Douglas, the son and grandson of white Russians, is now said to be married, interestingly enough, to a white Welsh woman. There was time with the white male Aaron Sorkin, creator of The West Wing. The Great White Sork at least wrote a part for a black person, albeit as the president's body guy, not the president. 

Then there were the stories about White Mo and Times white guy, the now Ex-Executive Editor Howell Raines, he of the Blair Niche Project.

For those readers who came in late, White Raines hired a young writer of African-American descent named Jayson Blair not because of his writing skills but because, in typical left-wing fashion dating back to slavery, White Raines judged people by skin color. A fellow white Timesman allowed that race was indeed "the decisive factor" in White Raines's decision to hire Black Blair. The niche the Black Blair was discovered to have filled was plagiarism flavored with fabrication, and the resulting scandal cost White Mo's white male friend White Raines his job.

Current white Times owner Arthur "Sheets" Sulzburger, Adolph the White's designated white man, moved quickly to contain the damage. Befitting the white descendant of the original white family patriarch who owned the paper when its similarly white editorialists were foaming about "the menace of the rule of blacks" Sheets replaced White Raines with one Bill Keller. Keller is, you guessed it, a white guy so white you couldn't pick him out of a snowstorm. Sheets was taking no chances about that "menace of the rule of blacks" thing great-white-grandpa Adolph furrowed his brow over. No sir. Not at The Times. Not on his white life. To reinforce the fact managing editor Jill White -- ah -- sorry, that would be Abramson, would be brought in, she too a whiter shade of pale. Abramson had co-written a hit-piece on the infidel black Clarence Thomas, which made her an especially white choice to replace the late Gerald Boyd, a rare Times executive who was actually black but alas was dragged under by the racial obsession of White Raines. That must never happen again, white?

What's a white girl to do with all this whiteness in her life? What else? Party with white people!

According to the news reports of the Obama inaugural period, the guest list for White Mo's Georgetown house party had more white guys standing obediently in line to get in the door than are still active on the Ku Klux Klan's roster. The White Man's real last stand, it seems, was at White Mo's. The line included whiteys Tom Hanks, Tom Brokaw, Larry David, David Geffen, Rahm Emanuel, Andrew Sullivan (the latter accompanied by someone appropriately named Tone) and…well, you get the idea. There were surely some blacks or Latinos there in a capacity other than serving the canapés, even if they didn't get their names in the press. No word if the Latino let through the door was Carlos Slim, the green Mexican the Times has been forced to rely on as, what else, a White Knight?

One wonders with all this inner turmoil over white men why White Mo ever accepted her White Joe. Sorry, that would be the Pulitzer Prize, named, but of course, for the white male newspaper baron Joseph Pulitzer. The stories that won White Mo her White Joe revolved around White Mo's intuitive understanding of a White Willy in the White House. Shocking! But come on. Seriously. Can't this woman scoop out black guys? Latinos? Where's the White Joe for filling us in on the sex life of the Yellow Kim Jong Il? Why no fling with, say, the fling-crazy Los Angeles Mayor Antonio "Brown Tony" Villaraigosa? Its always white guy, white guy, white guy with White Mo.

Perhaps White Mo takes the time to ponder these problems while secluded in the upscale white enclave of a city that the last census figures reported was 61% black. White Mo's white Georgetown precincts, according to census data from 2000, were a Klavernesque 3.8% black. Heaven forbid that she'd have her house parties in the 'hood over in Anacostia (97% black) or even Capitol Hill, which was 46% black in the same year all those hated Bushies began flooding the neighborhoods to get down with the even more despised Reaganites still there from the 1980s. Reaganites living side-by-side with African-Americans? Stop the white liberal presses! Call the stereotype police!

In fairness it really isn't fair to single out White Mo on matters racial, even though she has led us there. White Mo's white woes are in fact emblematic of the mainstream media in general, a place where judging people by skin color is a cherished value as long as it's New Haven firemen under the microscope. But not so much -- actually not much at all -- if it's their white media job, their white paper, their white television network or their white Internet site that is to be subjected to this scrutiny.

What do you see on your television or computer screen when you watch some of the prime-time news and commentary shows?

Here's a test. Think of these faces as promoted on the liberal cable networks MSNBC and CNN: Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz, Dylan Ratigan, Joe Scarbrough, Mika Brzezinski, Chris Matthews, Anderson Cooper, Larry King. Wolf Blitzer. John King. Lou Dobbs. Think of the faces reading you the news on the broadcast networks -- Charlie Gibson at ABC, Katie Couric at CBS and Brian Williams at NBC. A PBS fan? That would be the estimable Jim Lehrer. Sunday news shows? George Stephanopoulos at ABC, Bob Schieffer at CBS and David Gregory at NBC. Quick: what color are the faces attached to these names?

Ahhhhhhhh…right on white. You got it.

Seventeen mainstream media news shows -- hosted by eighteen very white faces. To do the percentages, that's 100% of these shows being hosted by whites. For that matter , the next time you catch a live feed of the white White House press secretary's daily briefing, count the non-white faces in the White House press corps staring back at the white man on the podium. You have one hand, don't you? Fox is not included in this line-up because of the obvious: as its liberal enemies love to point out, Fox is not liberal. Whether you believe Fox to be "conservative" or "fair and balanced" -- in either case, racial quotas are neither. Fox is the place where Latino Geraldo Rivera stars in his own prime time show. Shockingly there are lots of people out there in the Fox audience who think of Geraldo as -- brace yourselves -- Geraldo. Just Geraldo. Not Geraldo Hispanic. Not Geraldo Latino. Just Geraldo Rivera, journalist. Imagine that.

If the rest of these white media stars mentioned above were treated the way Sonia Sotomayor treated the white firemen in New Haven, they would have spent the last few years suing just to keep their jobs. And losing.

Which brings us back to White Mo Dowd. White Mo, the white girl who won the white prize for writing for the white paper with the white owner, the white editorial board and the white columnists. White Mo, who parties in a white neighborhood of a black city with white movie stars, white journalists and lots and lots of white guys .

Why, this white boy wonders, is this very white woman still writing this very white column for the very white Times in the first place? Why isn't her column given to some hot young aspiring-to-be-wise and very liberal Latina instead of White Mo? Why do white guy columnists get most of the column inches at the white run Times? Why not replace all of them -- maybe all but one, just to be quota-ish -- with black guys and dolls, Latinas/Latinos and an Asian or two to liven things up for poor Black Bob? If the Times were really up to its own imaginary standards, it would hire a gay black or Latina/Latino to replace the Frankly White Rich, he who tries hiding his whiteness by writing volumes on gays. Heck, why not just throw anti-gay bigotry under the bus and give Frankly White's white column to the straight-forwardly gay if unfortunately white Andrew Sullivan, he who brought Tone to White Mo's? Wouldn't that be Rich!

Why is the idea of ceding her column to a young Latina presumably a "no go" with White Mo? Why no gay Sullivan for straight Rich? The answer is the same as it has always been from -- white liberals: do as I say, not as I do.

White Mo will be staying at the New York Times because there is not the slightest intention to quota her out of her job in the same way White Mo and her white buds at the Times wanted to quota white fireman Frank Ricci and his white colleagues out of theirs. If one is to adopt White Mo's standard of judging by race, there is at the Times precisely what White Mo professes to see elsewhere but curiously not in her own work place: a white "code" and a white "club." The white guy owning the paper will hold on because his white family, the white heirs and heiresses of Adolph the White, want it that way. The white guy running the white editorial board will not be running a less than majority white board, the list of columnists will never be all non-white, and the blindingly white Bill Keller and Jill Abramson will still be two things: white and in charge. Forever and ever, 'til death do them part, white yesterday, white today and white through all of white earthly eternity as long as the Times shall live. (Which may be less than eternity, but that's another story -- sort of.) To adopt White Mo's take on life, it's the New York Times rendering of the white code of the white club. And White Mo not only knows that white code -- as with a lot of pretty white girls who know that code -- she's captain of the white club's cheerleaders.

Put this way, all this sounds crazy, no? While I may not agree with White Mo and her white pals, they are experienced journalists. You'd have to be crazy to just sweep in and deny all these white people in the Times and the wider media their jobs just because of the color of their skin.

Isn't that right, Lieutenant Ricci?

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About the Author
Jeffrey Lord is a former Reagan White House political director and author. He writes from Pennsylvania at jlpa1@aol.com.